Football is the most popular sport in Africa — we call it soccer over here. The NFL is currently trying to make football, our version, a thing in The Motherland, having just realized, apparently, that the second-most populated continent on Earth might be a good place to focus on.
This week, the NFL began hosting its first official events in Africa. Think about that for a second as you grasp the idea that it took until 2022 for a strictly American sports league that’s been trying to create a global imprint for decades to figure out that the birthplace of civilization might be a good investment. After NFL Europe failed because people across the pond preferred their brand of football (soccer) over ours, the league has been fixated on force-feeding us international games every season that usually come on when people are still asleep and are bad matchups that nobody wants to see. And now, Africa is in the NFL’s sights as it feels like somebody at the league office thought to themselves, “Hey, since our league is majority Black, why don’t we go to the place where Black people come from.”
According to the league:
“The week of activities – NFL Africa: The Touchdown – includes a talent identification camp, a fan event and a flag football clinic, and underscores the NFL’s commitment to develop more ways to serve its growing fan base across the continent.”
At this moment, over 100 players born in Africa and/or first-generation Africans play in the NFL. And recently, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations, wrote a piece for Sports Business Journal explaining the initiative.
In it, Vincent discusses how players are giving back, and the potential for growth opportunities as “the continent is home to 26 of the top 30 fastest growing large cities in the world. Further, 88 percent of African people identify as sports fans.”
Vincent then goes on to write that “football is for everyone.” And while that may be true, the NFL is not. Ask Colin Kaepernick, Michael Sam, and Ryan Nassib about that.
This entire calendar year has been a reminder of who the NFL doesn’t care about. Despite being a huge part of their fanbase, this league has never treated women fairly. If they did, someone like Deshaun Watson wouldn’t have signed the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history, as we’re all — if you’re smart — expecting that his upcoming punishment will be a slap on the wrist.
And then there are Black coaches, a group of men that have been overlooked, devalued, and mistreated for decades. There’s a reason why Brian Flores has a class-action lawsuit — which includes Ray Horton and Steve Wilks — against the league for its racist hiring practices. The league hired former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to represent it. When you have to get a Black person to defend you against racism, it means you’ve hit rock bottom.
Lastly, this is a league that’s still never had a Black person serve as the majority owner of a franchise. There are a number of Black people who have the money and are interested in ownership. However, the other owners simply don’t want them in their exclusive club.
Again, football may be for everybody, but the NFL is a league that only likes to align itself with certain people — which routinely excludes the masses when it comes to matters of consequence. And yet, despite all that, this league was still responsible for 75 of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts in 2021.
The NFL has become a behemoth that’s too big to fail. And it’s Teflon. So despite what they may say about why they’re just now going to Africa, know that it’s strictly for business reasons. Because something tells me that if you don’t care about the Black players and people in your own country, you couldn’t care less about a continent full of them.